‘78th Battle of the Maroons’
Spinners’ battle against batting forte
by Reemus Fernando

‘Vicious spin against cautious batting’ could be the order of the day when the ‘78th Battle of the Maroons’ big match between Ananda College and Nalanda College get underway at the SSC Ground today. The annual encounter features a host of talented spinners and productive batsmen in the school circles.

When the two premier Buddhist Schools of Colombo that have produced a cluster of Sri Lanka National players come together in the annual cricket encounter, it will be the spin departments of the two outfits that will matter the most for them to strive for a positive result as it has been the spin prowess that has earned success to both colleges this season.

Though the two teams have formidable batting line ups, an outcome will likely to be coming through the prowess of spinners.

Battle of spinners

The two teams will bank heavily on spinners who have had a big share in their victories this season.

Ananda skipper Malith Gunathilaka who has a massive haul of 90 wickets has been instrumental in many Ananda victories this season. Leg spinner Gunathilaka guided Ananda single handedly in their famous victory against Royal College (13 wickets) and picked up five of his 9 five wicket hauls in the other three Ananda victories. The formidable Ananda spinner Gunathilaka and off spinner Udara Peiris who has bagged over 50 wickets will perhaps end up the pick of the bowlers if Ananda’s thirst to further dominate the series tally, which is 14-6 at present, is quenched within the course of these two days. While Gunathilaka had the bowling honours in three Ananda victories, off spinner Peiris had the honours in their first ever victory against St. Sebastian’s College this season.

Spinners’ battle however will not be a one sided affair as Nalanda build their hopes of ending a 53 year old jinx (Nalanda has not recorded a victory since 1953) on the spinning abilities of skipper Milinda Weerasinghe, Amal Attapattu and Dilshan Munaweera trio. Off spinner Weerasinghe who heads the highest wicket takers’ list has bagged over 40 wickets while leg spinner Amal Atapattu who excelled in the SLC conducted Under-23 tournament (becoming the best bowler of the tournament with a haul of over 50 wickets) has picked up over 30 wickets to an impressive average of 13.91. The duo has combined well for Nalanda to take honours against their opponents on many occasions. They shared 10 wickets between them in their victory against St. Thomas’ College, Matara, and their spin combination will be vital for Nalanda in today’s match.

The spin dominance of the two outfits have put in the shade the performances of their pace bowlers. Left arm pacie Lahiru Aponsu and right arm paceman Madawa Warnapura who have shared 50 wickets between them impressed in several encounters and would want to peak in the big match encounter for Nalanda along with Ashan Priyanjana. Incidentally Aponsu had a match bag of 7 wickets in their victory against S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, who were the other team defeated by Nalanda this season.

Meanwhile Ananda bowling spearheads Ishara Wickramasinghe and Ranganath Wijetunga had to experience the same fortunes to that of their counterparts as the duo could share only 30 wickets between them in a spinner dominated season. They will look forward to make amends in the big match to come up with impressive performances.

Incidentally the batting analysis of the two sides looks the same but Nalanda will be sans their top scorer Lahiru Wickramasinghe (655) who has said goodbye to his alma mater just before the big event to join the university. However they have a strong batting line up consisting of opener Primosh Perera, Madawa Warnapura, Ashan Priyanjana and Nipun Karunanayaka who have scored amply. Vice captain Warnapura has accumulated over 600 runs with two centuries, Perera has aggregated nearly 550 runs while Priyanjana (over 400 runs), who represented Sri Lanka Under-19 team this year, has produced the best average of 46.44 in 9 innings.

Ananda has five batsmen who have scored 500 runs this season. Open bat Chandimal Lokuge who amassed a record breaking double hundred in a limited over match recently has aggregated nearly 600 runs in the two day tournament. Udara Jayasundara with the highest total of 750 runs with 2 centuries, Udara Peiris with over 600 runs and skipper Gunathilaka and Ranganath Wijetunga accumulating over 500 runs.

Both teams will take pride in featuring in the big match where many Sri Lankan Test players, of whom several have become all time legends of the game, tasted real competition for the first time in their lives. Meanwhile Nalandians have to forget before entering the arena that the long standing deadlock that even those legends couldn’t beak for the past 53 years is there to be broken.

(Pix by Jude Denzil Pathiraja and Nishan S Priyantha)

Lucky guy

The vacancy created by Lahiru Wickramasinghe in the Nalanda outfit has given a rare opportunity for a second XI player to feature in the annual battle. Second XI opener Dilshan Lasantha Indrasinghe is the lucky eleventh hour inclusion to the side. Right handed Indrasinghe who is also an off spinner has accumulated 350 runs in 9 innings for Nalanda second XI and will be opening with Primosh Perera in today’s match.

Series Tally

77 played

14 won by Ananda

6 won by Nalanda

Nalanda last won in 1953 under the captaincy of WW Silva

Ananda last won in 2003 under the captaincy of D. Kularatne



Highest scores by a side

290 by Nalanda in 1950

278 by Ananda in 1954

Lowest score by a side

48 by Nalanda in 1919

54 by Ananda in 1963

Best Bowling

8 for 32 by Yohan Gunasekara of Nalanda in 1976

8 for 36 by P.W. Perera of Ananda in 1940

Highest partnership

160 runs by Carl Obeysekera and Ashley de Silva of Nalanda

175 runs by Thusira de Silva and Nilan de Silva of Ananda

Highest individual score

149 not out by Shantha Kalavitigoda of Nalanda in 1997


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